Modeste Downes reviews Enticing Short Stories for the St. Lucia Times.
Every now and again I am confronted by something, some event, some piece of writing that takes me back to some nostalgic moment in time when I was growing up.
As I coursed through this fascinating collection by Gyanchand Rayman, I was constantly reminded of the literary staples that attracted youth to the printed page—comic books, Hardy Boys, Enid Blyton and an array of others.
As well, these Enticing Short Stories keep reminding me of masters of the genre, like Anton Chekhov (The Lady with the Dog), Edgar Allan Poe (The Cask of Amontillado), Guy de Maupassant (Boule de Suif), and endearing characters such as Oliver Twist and Pip, in Charles Dickens.
Growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s most youth would not have heard of Poe and Chekhov, or even Edgar Mittelholzer, famed writer and fellow countryman of the author. Few were the publications of West Indian origin accessible to local libraries; and so one feasted on the imported.
Enticing Short Stories is variously set in Guyana and other Caribbean locations, and though of indeterminate time frame, it treats of subject matter of absolutely significant currency. Employee of the Year, for
instance, is set in Saint Lucia, as is Raffle Ticket and Gifts of Love. By contrast, the lush forests of Guyana provide the perfect backdrop for Green Glory, while other stories may have a location shift as the narrative unfolds, as with Bachelor Brandt. These various settings have the advantageous effect of rendering the collection completely Caribbean.
The author’s purpose in creating this work, I believe, is meant not merely to serve the entertainment or literature vacuum among the indicated youth demographic, but to highlight certain issues of social, cultural and even moral topicality.
Employee of the Year focuses on the importance of dedication to duty, punctuality and reward; whereas Pantimonium is clothed in hilarity, mystery and depravity, it concludes with the humane act of forgiveness and celebration; Somebody Loves Me sets out on a note of vengeance—rape for rape, so to speak—but a totally unexpected and opposite outcome eventuates.
Notwithstanding, it is not to signal that the telling of these tales is any less interesting, as they are each and every single one of them endowed with all the ingredients that go into making a perfect story: a clear and decisive plot, mystery, a tension (suspense) that gradually heightens to a climax—or anti-climax, characters that fit the part, language that paints the right picture,
etc. And in that regard, Rayman does an excellent job. His narrative is rich in imagery, drama and superb characterization.
Rayman’s writing style is polished, mature, fluent.
His mastery of language is often highlighted by the choice of beautiful phrases and descriptive lines, such as when he writes in Green Glory, “…and before long we were regaled in the cloying sweetness of pineapples”, or “The sickly-sweet aroma of ripe and rotten pineapples was everywhere. We were giddy and knew not where to commence our plunder” (which sent my own mouth watering!).
Elsewhere he writes, “This, ladies and gentlemen, is symptomatic of a Caribbean malady…” (Communication Warp)—highlighting a deeply rooted Caribbean love affair with time.
In an environment where the technological gadgets and ‘toys’ available to youth is overwhelming them to the extent that their reading habits, writing, vocabulary are being compromised, the compilation of 20 that make up Enticing Short Stories has arrived not a moment too soon. Undoubtedly, its appeal to its targeted readership will achieve its objective given appropriate marketing.
Additionally, this writer is of the firm conviction that the book could serve as additional reading material for students preparing for certification at the island’s secondary schools.
A veteran in local literary circles—ex-teacher of literature and creative writing for decades and member and mentor of the St Lucia Writers Forum—Rayman has been a longtime contributor of short stories to The Voice newspaper of Saint Lucia.
The multi-talented recent retiree of the Ministry of Education of Saint Lucia where he has lived for the last three decades, is also an accomplished poet, and has been an unselfish guide to the Writers Forum and other young writers.
Miguel Barnet (BIM) states, “There are those who collect stamps, exotic birds or Etruscan coins. I have collected the lives of others” It would be simplistic to say that Gyanchand Rayman has collected short stories, when in reality what he has collected is memories, encounters, landscapes, clippings of Caribbean lifestyle, customs, traditions. He has brought all these together and woven them into something of a tapestry.
He has brought the past into the present and captured strands of the present for the future.
Enticing Short Stories is published in Saint Lucia and is set for a formal launch on February 23, as part of Independence Celebrations, 2016.